5 Things You Might Not Know About Schizophrenia
Ask a person on the street to describe schizophrenia and the most common answer might be a split personality. After all, this is how it is often portrayed in movies and on tv. The book Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886 and remains active in popular imagination.
The dichotomy of a person being two people with two distinct personalities is easy to remember but is far from the truth. Here are some things you might not know about schizophrenia, a serious mental illness.
Only One Personality
People suffering from schizophrenia do not have multiple personalities. In fact, having multiple personalities is a different mental illness, what used to be described as multiple personality disorder and now known as dissociative identity disorder.
However, for someone who suffers from schizophrenia, they see the world through a lens that is not tied to reality, and this is expressed through confused thinking, acting abnormally or delusions and hallucinations. This combination of an altered reality and the person’s reaction to it, and may appear unsettling to an observer and give the appearance of a split personality.
Caused by a Chemical Imbalance
Schizophrenia is caused by a biological effect, most likely through a chemical imbalance in the brain. This markedly differs from dissociative identify disorder which is caused through major trauma in early childhood. Most researchers believe that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of factors including genetics, brain structure, birth circumstances and early recreational drug use. It remains a broad clinical syndrome that is diagnosed by the symptoms.
A Hereditary Connection, But Not Necessarily a Genetic One
While there are observational risk factors for schizophrenia, researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific gene that causes it. For example, having a family history of schizophrenia increases the risk of developing it men are more prone to developing it; men develop it more frequently than women; and men develop it at younger ages than women. However, even if someone has all these factors, it does not mean they will develop schizophrenia.
Emergence in Young Adulthood
Schizophrenia is often times glamorized in Hollywood, as its onset coincides with major life transitions that makes for compelling drama and conflict. It is very rare for children to suffer from schizophrenia as it expresses itself during the teenage years and into early adulthood. The earlier the onset of schizophrenia the harder it is to treat. These steps towards independence also can make schizophrenia harder to diagnose. As teenagers go to college or begin working, it becomes harder for family members to notice the emergence of abnormal behaviors or changes in their emotional state.
Prevalent in All Cultures, But Not Very Common
According to the World Health Organization, 24 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia. Its hereditary or genetic component is also evident in that schizophrenia occurs in different cultures at comparable rates, which points to a stable and older origin. Observationally, its incidence has not varied greatly over the past two centuries, leading some researchers to hypothesize that its cause is more likely to have a major genetic contribution.